Reality, starring Sydney Sweeney as Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name), debuted in May 2023 to little fanfare and limited advertising. That’s a shame because the 85-minute movie is a real-life reenactment that feels as if you’re watching a one-act play. It’s riveting.
The movie’s dialogue and script are taken directly from the FBI transcripts of their interrogation of Winner, a United States government intelligence worker. The interview took place at a room in Winner’s home in Augusta, Georgia, on June 3, 2017. The FBI suspected that Winner illegally and knowingly stole National Security Agency (NSA) documents regarding Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election and gave them to an online publication. At first, Winner is unassuming and guesses the FBI agents are simply inquiring about a routine security-clearance request. But over the course of a casual, but persistent, interrogation, Winner’s resolve diminishes and the viewer witnesses her slow crumble in real time.
The appeal of this movie relies on its indie-doc style. There are no special effects, no elaborate soundtrack, and no stylish editing sequences. Tina Satter, credited for the movie’s direction and screenplay, had originally intended it to be a play called Is This a Room. As a film, the tension slowly builds through dialogue and close attention to the actors’ facial cues and body language. The movie-watching experience is as gripping as it is uncanny. I remember catching myself thinking, “I shouldn’t be enthralled with this no-frills movie, but why am I so captivated?”
Reality is a movie that reminds us there are many ways to tell a story. As a preacher who tells stories about Jesus Christ from four different accounts in the gospels, this movie heightens my appreciation for the “screenplay” choices, so to speak, that were made by each of the four gospel writers. Stories of FBI and classified government intelligence are usually told through excitement and explosions, but Reality is proof that tales of espionage and treason can also be told through muted subversion and still contain as much intrigue as their high-octane counterparts. (Max. Rated TV-MA for infrequent profanity)
About the Author
Daniel Jung is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Northern California, where he serves as an associate pastor at Home of Christ in Cupertino.